- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 19 July 2012 05:03, Updated 19 July 2012 13:41
Shell money: Crab is a staple of the popular business lunches at Il Centro Glenn Hunt
Il Centro has been a fixture of Brisbane’s business lunch scene since it opened at the Eagle Street Pier restaurant precinct 20 years ago. If the sweeping views of Brisbane River and the majestic Story Bridge don’t seal the deal, then its famous signature dish, lasagne alla granseola – that’s sand crab lasagne, if Italian is not your strong point – will.
The founder of document management company Myriad Technologies , James Milne , recalls receiving a visit from a senior executive from one of his most important vendor companies from Japan, who asked to have lunch at Il Centro. That suited Milne, a regular at the restaurant, but the flattery of being singled out for a visit by the multinational heavyweight was tempered somewhat.
“He had heard that Il Centro was famous for its sand crab lasagne, which was why he came to Brisbane,” Milne says, laughing at the memory. But he couldn’t fault his guest’s choice. “The food is phenomenal. So is the view and the service.”
Which is why Milne and his customer engagement manager, Perry Smith, regularly take their clients there.
“For a lot of our key customers, the best way to spend time with them, to really get to know what their problems are and what they’re trying to achieve in their businesses, is to take them out of the office environment and away from interruptions,” he says.
Milne says the Brisbane market, because of its small size relative to Melbourne and Sydney, is based on relationships.
Lunching at Il Centro is not only an effective way of managing relationships, it is also ideal for getting to know prospective customers.
“A lot of business is done on the basis of personal relationships, not just as business transactions,” he says. “Customers prefer to get to know you before they do business. I’ve always said that business in Brisbane is best done face to face.”
The chief executive of the Australian Institute of Management (Queensland), Vivienne Anthon, says Il Centro, “a bit of a Brisbane institution”, is ideal for “purposeful” business lunches.
“They’ve got the atmosphere right and I’ve always been impressed by the service,” Anthon says. “The staff has been there a long time, which means these are people for whom [being waiters] is their profession.
“If you’re going out for a business lunch, you really want to know that the restaurant you’re taking someone to has consistent service and quality. Your reputation is on the line, to a certain extent; it goes to discernment, so you’ve got to get it right.”
Andy Georges has been running cafes and restaurants in Brisbane since the 1970s; he and his wife Marcia started Il Centro in 1992.
The restaurant has catered to the corporate market from day one and today 90 per cent of its lunch trade is from business diners. The rest are visitors to Brisbane.
Among the business customers, Georges says “a good half” are regulars. “Some we see once a week, others once or twice a month,” he says. And there’s no prize for guessing what they’re eating. “We do 400 servings of sand crab lasagne a week,” he says. “Some regulars, that’s all they order.”
So Il Centro is popular for celebrating deals and entertaining clients, but where do Brisbane executives go for a discreet lunch or private meeting? Several executives BRW contacted Suggested the Brisbane Club and the Brisbane Polo Club.
Restaurants that people mentioned in dispatches included Sono, Aria and E’cco.